People of SFU

People of SFU: Floorplans and friendships – learning the story of SFU one room at a time

January 25, 2023
An enjoyable part of Irinel Filip’s job are the people she meets during her annual inventory of rooms at the three SFU campuses.

For Irinel Filip, one of the most enjoyable aspects of her job are the people she encounters and the stories she hears during her annual inventory of rooms across the three SFU campuses.

As analyst of space management systems at SFU’s Facilities Services, Filip maintains university floorplans and the room database. Among other things, this info is used for planning by operation and construction managers and as input to the space report sent out annually to the Ministry of Advanced Education. To ensure space information accuracy, she performs a yearly tour of the three campuses.

“I really enjoy the space inventories because you get to meet people across university,” says Filip. “You get to hear their stories, their experience on campus, about joys and challenges of the buildings they are in.

“I am not very outgoing by nature and do not easily meet new people. This job forces you to go out and interact and you end up really enjoying it.”

On top of their various roles, these ‘space coordinators’, as Filip calls them, tirelessly help keep space information accurate.

“They care and take pride in doing their duties well and often go beyond what is expected of them,” Filip says. “I’ve learned so much about the university from the contacts I’ve made – history, initiatives and ideas that I would not have known about otherwise.”

Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, Filip graduated with a master’s in architecture from the University of Belgrade. She moved to Canada in 1994 and settled in New Westminster for the first few years. Even though she no longer calls it home, she says the city still gives her happy memories of her early life in Canada.

“I love New Westminster,” Filip says. “It reminds me of the city I grew up in with its quaint neighborhoods, people walking on the streets, beautiful Queen’s Park, it feels like more of an established community. At night I could hear the trains in the distance and the sound of foghorns coming from Fraser, just like back home.”

In Canada, she took computer programming and database-design training prior and began working at SFU in 2007. The combination of architecture and database experience made her particularly suited for her current role.

Based on the data from the space inventory, Filip produces an annual report used by the province to determine university funding. The amount SFU receives from the province is, in part, based on the space SFU has and the types of programs it offers.

“Although life taught me a few languages, I’m actually a numbers person,” says Filip. “Numbers speak to me, they can tell stories, just like people. I keep all the historical data from back when I started. It’s useful when trying to figure out trends and exactly when changes occurred. You can dig through history, just by looking at the information – observe how university space transforms through time.”

In addition, Filip works with Andrew Leung in IT Services to sync her database information and geo-referenced floor plans with the Room Finder in the SFU Snap app. This info is also synched with scheduling information. So, when a student logs on, the app finds their profile and schedule and can display the classroom locations on the map on their device.

“I’m proud of taking part in enabling visual representation of the SFU space data that was, for years, just sitting on a server and mainly used for annual reporting. All that data is now available to a much larger audience and is used daily. It serves as base for all the room-related GIS information which is now available online and through the SFU Snap app.”

Filip says she enjoys the challenges of her job, figuring out how to take data and present it to people in a meaningful way. Her enthusiasm for her work has spilled over into her personal life. Her daughter, currently enrolled in SFU Chemistry, attended SFU camps as a child and has often accompanied her mother on her inventory tours of campus.

“I just love working at SFU. Really, it’s wonderful.”

This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.